What is borderline personality disorder?

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a serious mental illness that centers on the inability to manage emotions effectively. The disorder occurs in the context of relationships: sometimes all relationships are affected, sometimes only one. It usually begins during adolescence or early adulthood.

While some persons with BPD are high functioning in certain settings, their private lives may be in turmoil. Most people who have BPD suffer from problems regulating their emotions and thoughts, impulsive and sometimes reckless behavior, and unstable relationships

Other disorders, such as depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, substance abuse and other personality disorders can often exist along with BPD

The diagnosis of BPD is frequently missed and a misdiagnosis of BPD has been shown to delay and/or prevent recovery. Bipolar disorder is one example of a misdiagnosis as it also includes mood instability. There are important differences between these conditions but both involve unstable moods. For the person with bipolar disorder, the mood changes exist for weeks or even months. The mood changes in BPD are much shorter and can even occur within the day.

Causes of Borderline Personality Disorder?

Research on the causes and risk factors for BPD is still in its early stages. However, scientists generally agree that genetic and environmental influences are likely to be involved.

Certain events during childhood may also play a role in the development of the disorder, such as those involving emotional, physical and sexual abuse. Loss, neglect and bullying may also contribute. The current theory is that some people are more likely to develop BPD due to their biology or genetics and harmful childhood experiences can further increase the risk.


Symptoms?

Borderline personality disorder symptoms vary from person to person and women are more likely to have this disorder than men. Common symptoms of the disorder include the following:

  • Having an unstable or dysfunctional self-image or a distorted sense of self (how one feels about one’s self)
  • Feelings of isolation, boredom and emptiness
  • Difficulty feeling empathy for others
  • A history of unstable relationships that can change drastically from intense love and idealization to intense hate
  • A persistent fear of abandonment and rejection, including extreme emotional reactions to real and even perceived abandonment
  • Intense, highly changeable moods that can last for several days or for just a few hours
  • Strong feelings of anxiety, worry and depression
  • Impulsive, risky, self-destructive and dangerous behaviors, including reckless driving, drug or alcohol abuse and having unsafe sex
  • Hostility
  • Unstable career plans, goals and aspirations

Many people experience one or more of the above symptoms regularly, but a person with borderline personality disorder will experience many of the symptoms listed above consistently throughout adulthood.

The term “borderline” refers to that fact that people with this condition tend to “border” on being diagnosed with additional mental health conditions in their lifetime, including psychosis.

One of the ironies of this disorder is that people with BPD may crave closeness, but their intense and unstable emotional responses tend to alienate others, causing long-term feelings of isolation.